Point-To-Pointing demonstrated its resilience at Cottenham yesterday (Sunday) as, despite being dogged by bad weather, the 2002 season got under way with an excellent Cambridgeshire Harriers Hunt Club meeting.
Having finally conquered Foot and Mouth after 11 months, the fixture had to withstand the elements. The course was only declared frost-free after two inspections on Saturday, then the fog descended to once again throw the resumption of the sport into doubt.
Conditions fluctuated throughout the day, and spectators could only see around the whole course for two of the eight races. But the minimum requirement of being able to see the final fence from the winning post was always fulfilled, and a remarkably large crowd peered through the gloom to celebrate the long-awaited return of amateur steeplechasing.
Not a single East Anglian victory was registered, but none of the smiling locals seemed to mind as raiders from all over the British Isles carried off the silverware.
The most successful visitors were also the best connected – trainer Marilyn Scudamore (wife of record-breaking jockey Peter) and rider Robert Biddlecombe (son of another champion pilot, Terry). Scudamore, from Naunton in Gloucestershire, saddled Greenwich and Zaffaran Winds to win two of the three maiden races and Biddlecombe was in the saddle on each occasion to register his first double.
Greenwich had somehow managed not to win any of his 19 previous career starts despite showing a very high level of form, and he easily disposed of his 15 rivals to win by a distance.
Scudamore’s horses have benefited from being able to use Nigel Twiston-Davies’ all-weather gallops during the recent freeze, and their fitness advantage was again in evidence in the finale, when Zaffaran Winds proved ten lengths too strong for Harry’s Mare and Lovelock.
Wiltshire trainer Susie Goess-Saurau and her jockey, Polly Gundry, had earlier landed the other maiden when Themanfromcarlisle outclassed his seven opponents in a two-and-a-half-miler. An imposing sort, Themanfromcarlisle could have a big future and is one for your notebook.
The Brench Hayes-sponsored Men’s Open is the one East Anglian race of the year to offer the maximum first prize of £300. It attracted a disappointing turnout of five runners but produced a popular winner in the veteran course specialist, Mister Spectator.
Well ridden by Stuart Morris, who was offered the mount less than an hour before the race when Sussex trainer Peter Hickman realised that his bathroom scales were ‘up the spout’ and that he would need to carry 11lbs overweight, Mister Spectator made every yard of the running.
Jumping superbly, he came home a distance clear of Hatcham Boy. Now 13 years of age, the winner was notching his fifth Cottenham victory yet has never won anywhere else.
Amazingly, given the low level of prizemoney on offer, two of the day’s winners were trained in Scotland. Heart of Avondale, who had come all the way down from near Kelso, justified the long drive with a facile success in the Gerrard Ladies’ Open.
And Running Mute, who left the Hawick yard of trainer Phillipa Shirley-Beavan at 11.30am on Saturday morning, quickened up well to beat Clashbridane by ten lengths in the Restricted Race. It was a rapid change of fortune for winning rider Luke Morgan, who had been involved in a minor car accident on Newmarket High Street on the morning of the race.
The opening race of the season, for Club Members, saw a victory for Yorkshire courtesy of the Clive Mulhall-ridden Minden Rose, while Jorodec, trained near Shrewsbury by Pam Sykes, lifted the Intermediate Race.
Race One (Club Members Race):
1 P Maddison’s Minden Rose (Middleton) (C Mulhall),
2 Mrs R Lane and Mrs P Smyly’s Wade Road (N Cotswold) (M Rimell),
3 Mrs M G Sheppard’s Fair Exchange (Cambs) (P Taiano).
Also: Wrekengale (4), Royal Artic (5), Albermarle (6), Anorak (7), Cormeen Lord (f), Forgie (pu). Three lengths, five lengths. 6.28. W £2.40. DF £4.30. SP 2-1 (Fair Exchange 5-4 fav).
Race Two (Restricted Race):
1 J E Vestey’s Running Mute (Jedforest) (L Morgan),
2 Mrs G Walford’s Clashbridane (Middleton) (M Walford),
3 A Martin and Miss L Peddell’s I’m Dreaming (Heythrop) (A Martin).
Also: Pagermar (4), Musical Hit (5), Carebec (ur), Glencoy (f), Hurrican Harry (f), Nonplussed (pu), Orient Bay (pu), Rio’s Lord (pu). Ten lengths, two lengths. 6.28. W £2.50. DF £1.70. SP 9-4 jt fav (Hurricane Harry 9-4 jt fav).
Race Three (Men’s Open):
1 P Hughes’ Mister Spectator (E Sussex and Romney Marsh) (S Morris),
2 Mr and Mrs A Howland-Jackson’s Hatcham Boy (Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas),
3 R Makin’s Makin’ Doo (York and Ainsty S) (C Mulhall).
Also: Secret Truth (4), Monyman (pu). A distance, 4l. 6.27. W £5.40. DF £3. SP 5-1 (Hatcham Boy 5-4 fav).
Race Four (Intermediate Race):
1 D Edwards and Mrs P Sykes’ Jorodec (S Salop) (R Burton),
2 Mrs S Shirley-Beavan’s Claywalls (Jedforest) (C Shirley-Beavan),
3 Mrs S Dench’s Oxendale (Ashford Vale) (P Bull).
Also: Triple Eaves (4), Native Caption (ur). Two lengths, three lengths. 6.37. W £8. DF £17.50. SP 5-1 (Triple Eaves 6-4 fav).
Race Five (Ladies Open):
1 Mrs B Thompson’s Heart Of Avondale (Berwicks) (Mrs C Ford),
2 J Swindells’ China Lal (Cheshire) (Miss G Swindells),
3 N Fyfe’s Borrow Mine (Cambridge Univ) (Miss L Marriott).
Also: Pongo Waring (4), Pontdon Bridge (5), Sirinndi (6), General Assembly (7), Its-On-The-Cards (8), Jess Express (ur), Our Kris (pu). Distance, half a length. 6.26. W £3.20. DF £12.10. SP 4-5 fav.
Race Six (Eight-year-old and Older Open Maiden Race):
1 Mrs J Powell and Mrs M Scudamore’s Greenwich (Cotswold) (R Biddlecombe),
2 L Stillwell and Mrs N Pollock’s Crackrattle (Fernie) (T Lane),
3 Mrs E Wharton’s Final Escapade (Warwicks) (C Wadland).
Also: Flowing Fortune (4), Light The Sky (5), About Time (pu), Digitalis (pu), Glass Breaker (pu), King Sirius (f), Lord Drakkar (ur), Makhpiya Patahn (pu), Mustang Molly (f), Spartan Pimpernel (pu), The Flying Dragon (pu), The Noble Reel (pu), Tuath Deuchainne (su). Dist, 20l. 6.26. W £1.80. DF £10. SP 4-6 fav.
Race Seven (5, 6 and 7-year-old Open Maiden Race 2½ miles Division One):
1 Count K Goess-Saura’s Themanfromcarlisle (VWH) (Miss P Gundry),
2 R Green’s Crown Rule (Suffolk) (R H Fowler).
Also: Ice Pack (f), Knockout (f), Louder Please (f), Peace Frog (f), Sheila Mackenzie (pu), Society Scandal (pu). A distance. 5.12. W £3.50. DF £6.80. SP 5-2 fav.
Race Eight (5, 6 and 7-year-old Open Maiden Race 2½ miles Division Two):
1 M Scudamore’s Zaffaran Winds (Cotswold) (R Biddlecombe),
2 Countess Goess-Saura and Friends’ Harry’s Mare (VWH) (Miss P Gundry),
3 W Stone’s Lovelock (Fitzwilliam) (N King).
Also: Adventino (pu), Daisy Fay (pu), Erin’s Surprise (f), Grahamthengladiator (f), Ice Saint (ur), Push Button (pu). Ten lengths, one and a half lengths. 5.10. W £3. DF £5.80. SP 2-1 fav.